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Lee Future leader Don Eslick speaks at GPICA meeting

November 13, 2019
By ED FRANKS (efranks@breezenewspapers.com) , Pine Island Eagle

Don Eslick (Mr. Estero), a long-time Lee County community leader, introduced the organization Lee Future to the audience at last week's Greater Pine Island Civic Association meeting.

Eslick is one of the founders of Lee Future and also founder and long-time chairman of the Estero Council of Community Leaders. He has served Lee County as chairman of its Charter Review Committee and as a member of the Smart Growth and Density Reduction/Ground-water Resource Advisory committees. In 2006, the Lee County Board of Commissioners chose Eslick as Lee County Citizen of the Year.

According to its website, "Lee Future fights for the right of all Lee County residents to enjoy a sustainable future and a high quality of life through solution-based ideas, community activism, and support for transparent and representative governance."

"I think 2020 offers us a tremendous opportunity for change at the county level," Eslick said. "I believe, and those at Lee Future believe, we need change at the county board level. Up until the 2012 election, you had a county board with vision... that was focused on the long-term welfare of the community. Since that time we have some new people who are not farsighted."

The election of 2020 will offer Lee County voters an opportunity to elect three County Commissioners -- John Manning is retiring, the passing of Commissioner Kiker leaves an open seat, and Frank Mann's seat.

"The severe water issues Southwest Florida has faced over the last few years are a focus of Lee Future," Eslick said. "Electing county leaders that will deal with the septic tank issues, and the passing and enforcing of fertilizer laws to improve the water are important steps to a better future."

With a population of more that 700,000, Lee County is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. Rapid population growth causes traffic congestion and crowded classrooms.

A solution proposed by Lee Future is to concentrate development in urban areas, improve planning with local control and community input, and provide more financing for infrastructure.

"Prior to 2013, Lee County government operated using a 'bottom-up' approach," Eslick said. "At meetings the residents would have input that would be considered by the commissioners. Today, the commissioners advise the staff what they want without any input from the residents.

"What we need to do is elect Lee County Commissioners who will listen to Lee County citizens and protect our natural environment," Eslick said. "The website has over 50 articles detailing the areas Lee Future is working on so be sure to register on our website, www.LeeFuture.com and our Facebook and Twitter pages."

In other business, the Civic Association Board updated members on the efforts they are undertaking on the incorporation of Great Pine Island.

"Being governed by Lee County doesn't give us the quality of life that we want and we deserve," board member Helen Fox said. "The board of the GPICA believes incorporation would be good for us and benefit all of our communities."

In a handout, GPICA explained that incorporation would preserve Pine Island's "Old Florida" atmosphere. The two islands, Matlacha and Pine Island, are surrounded by mangrove forests, three federally designated aquatic preserves, acres of palms, tropical plants and fruit groves.

"Our main reasons for favoring incorporation are to preserve our quality of life, to protect the environment, to avoid over-development, to limit building height and housing density, to preserve our fragile ecosystem. We need to take charge of decisions about land use and to use all of our taxes for the benefit of Greater Pine Island," Fox said.

Fox explained that once the community voted (registered Florida voters only) in the general election to incorporate, a new village council would be elected from 5 districts. GPICA has set up an online link to a district color coded map of district boundaries: www.GPICA.org, click on Incorporation and Incorporation Documents.

Each of those districts would elect a representative to the city council plus two at-large council members. The seven council members would elect a mayor.

The council would contract with Lee County or others for police, emergency management, public works, parks and recreation, building inspection, animal control, etc.

The timeline is estimated to be: October 2019 begin public discussion; October-November 2019 produce a final draft of the Incorporation Charter (the current draft is available on the GPICA website; 2020 hold a non-binding referendum for residents to gauge interest in incorporation; November 2020, if there's enough, support materials will be submitted to the state; early 2020-2021, a bill introduced in the House; if passed, introduced in the Senate; if passed, sent to governor for signing; if signed. all registered voters get to vote in a general election in 2022.

"We recognize that the idea of incorporation is controversial," Fox said. "What we've decided to do is to put this out to the community and to promote the idea of discussing the pros and cons."

The feasibility study performed in 2017 is available at: gpica.org/feasibilitystudy2017

Greater Pine Island Civic Association meetings are held on the first Tuesday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the Elks Club on Pine Island Road. The next meeting will be held Dec. 3.

 
 

 

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